Put pumpkin behind you — holiday cocktails offer variety of flavors

Here's how to make your own
Winter White Cosmo served at Adelphi Hotel bar, created by beverage manager Tim Everhardt, in Saratoga Springs, Nov. 21, 2019.
Winter White Cosmo served at Adelphi Hotel bar, created by beverage manager Tim Everhardt, in Saratoga Springs, Nov. 21, 2019.

The holidays are a favorite time to indulge in some specialty cocktails. There are sure to be a variety of choices at family gatherings, holiday parties, offices parties or just drinks out with friends.

When the pumpkin flavor of fall has run its course, there is a whole other flavor palette to choose from when it comes to tasty libations. Restaurants and bars devise new cocktail menus for the holidays, and liquor stores have their busiest season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as customers come shopping for beverages for the holidays.

“I find that customers are looking to make special martinis for the holidays,” said Carrie Peek, owner of Zinful Thoughts Wine & Liquor in Scotia. She hears them talking about apple and peppermint martinis, among others. 

To cater to those seasonal tastes, the Waters Edge Lighthouse restaurant in Scotia offers special holiday drinks on a daily basis, according to general manager Joe Popolizio. The restaurant makes gingerbread and chocolate martinis, as well as hot drinks that have cloves, cinnamon and honey in them, similar to a hot cider or hot toddy. “When the holidays roll around, those are the kind of thing that people really like,” he said. 

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One of the restaurant’s all-time favorites of the season is a double-espresso martini. Chocolate caramel ones are popular, too, Popolizio said. “Anything kind of sweet and hearty during the winter months, people tend to like,” he said. 

Last year, the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, home to Morrissey’s Lounge and the Blue Hen restaurant, offered two craft winter cocktails, the Winter White Cosmo and the Invisible Manhattan. The cosmo turned out to be wildly popular, according to beverage manager Tim Everhardt, so it is back this year, along with four new cocktails, including a Yule Mule Fizz, which is a combination of the traditional mule and a gin fizz. The cocktails feature spices of the season, cranberry and other holiday favorites. 

Alcohol companies are constantly updating their products to offer new ones during the holidays when people consume more alcohol. “The industry changes so quickly — year to year, season to season,” said Mike Mercado, Liquor Manager at Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse in Clifton Park. For example, Kahlua makes a peppermint flavor and Bailey’s has a salted caramel liqueur, he said. Gingerbread liqueurs make an appearance, too. 

Customers are seeking creamier types of liquors, Mercado said, such as Bailey’s and bourbon cream, the latter of which is gaining popularity. “That kind of drink modifier is what people are going for now,” he said.

Peek points out that these holiday-themed flavors are usually only available this time of year. A few examples are Crown Royal Salted Caramel, Smirnoff’s Kissed Caramel Vodka and Peppermint Vodka, Evan Williams Egg Nog, and pumpkin pie liqueur. There are also products that come out targeted for gift-giving, like the Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and Jack Daniel’s Apple.

One traditional drink retains its place as a holiday favorite. “Eggnog is huge this time of year, for obvious reasons,” Mercado said.

This drink can be enjoyed as a nonalcoholic one or spiked with rum, bourbon, or brandy. 

Drinking increases this time of year, whether it be specialty cocktails or other wines or spirits. “During the holiday season, customers definitely drink more bourbons, wines, champagnes and sparkling wines, too,” Peek said.

Beer also gets its fair share of the market. Christmas beers are becoming more prevalent.

“We have Christmas beers that have certain spices and whatnot that they’re brewed with,” Popolizio said. 

“I think at the end of the day, no matter what, people are just looking for delicious cocktails, and if it can incorporate flavors of the season, all the better,” Everhardt said. 

Chai Old Fashioned

Recipe from the Waters Edge Lighthouse restaurant:

Muddle an orange with a dash of maple syrup and orange bitters. Add chai mixture (black chai tea with vanilla and warm spices), Maker’s Mark Bourbon and a splash of club soda. Garnish with cinnamon stick and star anise.

Sugar Cookie Martini

Recipe from Brian Rapp, a liquor manager at Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse:

1 oz. Gray’s Peak Vodka
1 oz. Bomb Bomb vanilla
1 oz. amaretto
1 cup half and half

Shake in a shaker full of ice. For the martini glass, rim with vanilla frosting and sprinkle red and green sprinkles around the rim of the glass. Pour and serve.

Winter White Cosmo

From The Adelphi Hotel:

2 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz white cranberry juice
1/4 oz Cointreau 
1/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shake the cocktail shaker for about 30 seconds until well chilled. Strain into a glass and garnish with three skewered cranberries. 

Yule Mule Fizz served at Adelphi Hotel bar, created by beverage manager Tim Everhardt, in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, November 21, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Yule Mule Fizz served at Adelphi Hotel bar, created by beverage manager Tim Everhardt, in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, November 21, 2019.

Yule Mule Fizz

From The Adelphi Hotel:

1 oz El Dorado 5-year rum
1/2 oz Bumbu Rum
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Giffard Menthe-Pastille
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/4 oz heavy cream
egg white
ginger beer
club soda

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake together the first seven ingredients. Pour into a highball glass and top with equal parts of ginger beer and club soda. Garnish with mint leaves and a couple of cranberries to resemble holly. 

Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Appletini

Courtesy Carrie Peek of Zinful Thoughts:

1 1/2 oz. Smirnoff Kissed
Caramel Vodka
3 oz apple juice
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup

Shake all ingredients and strain into martini glass rimmed with caramel. Garnish with thin apple slices.

Smirnoff Peppermint Martini

Courtesy Carrie Peek of Zinful Thoughts:

1 1/4 oz. Smirnoff Peppermint Vodka
4 oz. Bailey’s Original Irish Cream

Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg and a mini candy cane.

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